By Aja Blanc
Every summer, a group of local high school students comes together at the RISD Museum for a 2-week intensive program that immerses them in a collaborative, creative practice within the Museum. This past summer, with a focus on design thinking, the students were asked “What is useful?” as a starting point for their group design. After fruitful discussions and debate, the students surprised us by taking a decidedly philosophical approach to the question. Rather than answer the question with a specific object, they said “art education.” After deciding that art education is useful, they then set out to design an object that reflected this belief. Tasked with the design and packaging for their product, the team of students split into smaller groups to tackle the many aspects of product design. Over the course of the two-week intensive, the students also spent time in the Museum galleries looking at objects that informed their own design practice and meeting with local designers and artists who also helped them shape their final design. In the end, the students created an organizational tool for art supplies with a built-in easel. They named their product the Anew.
In their own words:
“The need for new tools to help art education in schools is what we were focusing on when creating the Anew. Helping young artists to further their skill is what we wish to support, as it is clear that art in schools is in need of further encouraging. The field of art is looked down upon by others, which is a great shame as artists play a key role in society. Because of this, we have gone through great lengths to deliver a product that is useful to students pursuing art as either a hobby or a career. Hopefully, this will help them get a good start on what will be a successful path contributing to our society.
“This item allows students to have an accessible means to both carry and create art. It is a portable drawing surface that also serves as a space to contain art materials. The easel on the front is adjustable in height for the user’s preferences. There are several different heights that can be achieved by toggling the prop sticks and attaching them to sections of the cubbies. The cubbies themselves can be enlarged by easily sliding out the walls, allowing for more room for supplies. We guarantee that your experience with the Anew will be a positive one.”
After a visit to a local laser cutter, the students choose to have their piece cut out of 1/4-inch plywood. Once the prototype was completed, students assessed the improvements they would make to the piece if they had more time: “In moving forward with the design, we think it needs a latch to close the lid, and the facets on the side are a little wobbly. The easel lid and the press-fit for the finger joints could use some refinement too.”
Continuing with the theme of honesty and improvement, the students also left us with their thoughts on the experience overall, as one student noting: “I’m really glad this teen intensive wasn’t disappointing or a waste of time. It was tiring, but I met some really nice people and had good conversations.”